Organised criminal gang behind £385k benefit fraud jailed for over eight years

An organised crime group (OCG) has?been sentenced'today'to a combined total of eight years and four months at?Inner London Crown Court?for committing £385,000 of benefit fraud,?following a successful investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist City of London and Metropolitan police unit funded by the banking and cards industry.

The fraud took place between February 2020 and October 2020 and involved the following individuals: Santino Laskowski, 25, (no address known), Ali Tariq, 41, of Newham, East London, Karolina Zmijewska, 40, of Enfield, North London, Monika Gorska, 28 (resident of Poland), and Edyta Gorska, 36 (resident of Poland). 

On 4 February 2020, Laskowski was present during an attempt to open an account at a bank branch in Barking using someone else's credentials and a fraudulently obtained utility bill. He was arrested at the bank, and his mobile phone was examined by DCPCU officers. The phone contained numerous details of fraudulently opened bank accounts in the names of others, and messages between Laskowski and Tariq exchanging fraudulent bank account information. 

Later that month, Tariq attended a bank in Queen Victoria Street in the company of a Polish male to fraudulently open a bank account using the male's details. Tariq was arrested and officers found that the Polish male had been coerced into opening an account on behalf of Tariq for the purposes of fraud.  

On the same day, bank employee Zmijewska, was arrested on suspicion of committing fraud, as the bank identified bank accounts that she had opened which matched the accounts of those in Laskowski's phone messages.  

Upon questioning, Zmijewska stated she had opened the fraudulent bank accounts on behalf of a female named Monika Gorska, and denied any wrongdoing. Monika Gorska and her sister, Edyta Gorska, who acted as an accomplice, were arrested on 6 October 2020 as they tried to flee the UK to Poland, and their mobile phones were examined. In addition to evidence corroborating the offences undertaken at the bank where Zmijewska worked, evidence from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also showed that the pair were exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic by fraudulently opening Universal Credit accounts in the names of Polish Nationals, in order to obtain cash from the government.  

The DWP identified that £300k had been fraudulently paid to these account holders.  

The fraud was spotted by the bank and referred to the DCPCU to investigate. When delivering the sentence at Inner London Crown Court, the judge awarded a commendation to Detective Constable Matt Cornell for leading the DCPCU's work on this case.

Matt Cornell, Detective Constable at the DCPCU, commented:?? 

This criminal gang wrongfully thought they could get away with committing £385k of fraud, including by exploiting the Universal Credit scheme.?? 

?Fortunately,?we were able to detect these criminals by working closely with the bank to bring them to justice. 

?This sentencing is a warning to those who believe they can benefit financially from fraud that they will be caught and punished.

Will Quince, the Minister for Welfare Delivery at the Department for Work and Pensions, commented:

I welcome these sentences which show we work with partners to relentlessly pursue organised criminals who set out to fleece the taxpayer for their own gain.

?I?m committed to driving down fraud in the benefits system, ensuring the welfare safety net reaches those in need, and this outcome makes clear that crime doesn't pay.

Sentencing details 

Gang members 

  • Laskowski received a two year and four months custodial sentence for conspiracy to defraud the UK banking industry. 
  • Tariq received a two year sentence, suspended for two years, plus a 20-day rehabilitation course and curfew for conspiracy to commit fraud. 
  • Zmijewska received an 18 month prison sentence for conspiracy to commit fraud.
  • Monika Gorska received a two and a half year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to supply articles for use in fraud.
  • Edyta Gorska received a two year prison sentence for committing money laundering offences.  

Contact Information

UK Finance Press Office
020 7416 6750